I’m mad. Hopping mad. Broke a pencil I’m so mad.

A well-known company in the book industry has informed me that my use of the word “Gypsy” is objectionable. They did so politely. I won’t disclose who they are or exactly what was said, as their TOS disallows sharing of correspondence between us.

I will tell you that I objected with a veritable assault of historical and intellectual veracity. And then I refused to comply.

The reason I’m mad is that, in this case, the name of a people has been arbitrarily designated a pejorative by people who have no skin in the game, as it were. Gypsies pretty much don’t mind being called Gypsies.

Because there is no other word for them.

But, Mike, we’re all supposed to call them Roma now. Yeah, let me explain why that’s a bunch of nonsense.

In short, to insist that a Gypsy be called Roma would be akin to insisting that a European be called German or a Native American be called Navajo. They may very well be French or Cherokee.

This is especially important in the context surrounding my use of the word. I wrote a novel about Porajmos. Gypsies were comprised of several tribes, those being comprised of many clans. The three predominate tribes were the Romani, Senti and Jenesche. All Gypsies. All persecuted by Hitler. To attach the horrors of Porajmos to only the Romani (or Roma, if you must) is to dismiss entire populations who suffered equally under Hitler’s terror.

To that end, Patrina, the heroine in my story, was a Gypsy and she represents all her people who suffered under Porajmos, not just her tribe.

Get it?

I am weary of the modern American proclivity to rather pretentiously designate words as acceptable or not. The advocates of constantly changing words will not admit the simple truth – THEY assign connotations to a word and then feel ashamed about it. Even if those connotations are borne of fact.

My wife’s great grandfather, a Gypsy, was not a nice man, as she would tell you. He embodied every negative stereotype associated with the word Gypsy.

But her grandmother did not.

Just because some people reflect poorly on a group does not justify taking away the group’s name, especially when they have a right to be remembered for their unjust suffering in World War II.

Gypsy is the word for these people, from the very beginning. It is not a corruption of their historical name, like most pejoratives are. There is no other word for the collection of tribes known as the Romani, Senti, Jenesche and others. They are, collectively, Gypsies.

If somebody associates grievances with the word, that’s on them. I would counter that it is easy to ascribe the genocide of Native Americans to my ancestors. Doesn’t mean I’m going to disown the title of American. One should not hide from his heritage – he should learn from it. But I digress. My point here is that the only justification for pejorafying the word Gypsy is to exclusively attribute negative stereotypes to the people who own the word.

Well, that’s not fair. There is more to the Gypsy than that.

My wife is prescient and likes to go off for a couple days now and then just to travel. It’s in her blood. She’s also a good cook, incredibly kind to animals and stands up against even the most trivial injustice. And she is, at least in part, a Gypsy.

And some of her people died in Auschwitz.

So, no, big-name-company in the book business, I’m not going to back away from the word Gypsy. My Patrina is a Gypsy.

And I love her so.

One thought on “Let’s talk about Gypsies

  1. I agree 100 percent.
    One of my books, “The Gypsy Smiled” was picked up by a traditional publisher and their betas fought me until I was in tears about the word “gypsy” which was in no way used as derogatory. Once the book was published, they did little to promote the book and the book sat on the shelves for five years unless I gave the publisher thousands of dollars to get out of the contract. All because they were offended by my title which I wouldn’t change.
    Moving forward, my book was picked up by a different traditional publisher and will have it’s second printing in October 2023.
    I appreciate this blog and will be sharing it with others who understand that the word “gypsy” is only meant in highest regard. I’m proud of you for standing your ground, and writing this blog — as it helped me so much in processing those who so high and mighty like to “educate” on a word that my own Roma friends do not find offensive.
    I appreciate you!

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